The 12 Blogs of Christmas: One. A Doctor Who Story for Christmas.

Hello, and welcome to the first of my 12 Blogs of Christmas, where, as in the last few years, I'll be presenting hopefully exciting new stuff over the next twelve days, covering, in a festive manner, the three worlds I move in: science fiction; comics and Doctor Who. Advance warning: for the third such blog, on Tuesday 15th, from 10am to 10pm, I'll be answering every Tweet that's addressed to me on Twitter, and selecting the best exchanges to reprint on the blog that day, updating it as we go along. First up, however, a seasonal new Doctor Who short story. This is presented, as we wait for Russell to finish the era of the Tenth Doctor in a doubtless wonderful manner, purely as fan fiction, with no money being made. It's copyright me, and not to be reproduced anywhere else. Doctor Who belongs to the BBC, obviously. And let's hope I don't have to get more formal than that. I hope you enjoy it.



The Last Doctor
by Paul Cornell


The old man stood on the hill and looked up at the night sky. He’d been right to climb up here, despite how it had hurt his knees and back.
There were no stars.
There were no clouds. He knew where stars should remain. He knew by his learning and in his bones. Those stars were gone. They had been the last.
He’d known this was likely. But he was still frightened.
He looked back down to the town in the valley. There the lights still shone. He’d connected the electrical grid to his ship. In the year since he came here, he’d connected just about everything to his ship.
He felt absurdly old, suddenly. Implausibly old. To have such responsibility. To have taken it on. When he should be retired, enjoying... something. Something other than what he’d had all his life. Something that a part of his mind had always sought and never really got.
A holiday.
He smiled at that. But it wasn’t a good smile. After a moment, he let it go.
‘Hello?’ the voice came from the trail behind him, and he realised, annoyed at himself, that there’d been another reason he’d come up here. The stars, after all, would have failed to show themselves above the peak in a few hours. Not all those he sought had been faint enough to be obscured by the electric lights.
(He’d given them such bright lights. Once upon a time, he’d given them fire.)
He’d come up here to be alone.
But now that felt absurd too, a selfish waste of time. ‘Yes,’ he called back, ‘hullo there, Amarta.’
She came into sight at the turn of the path. She wasn’t even breathing hard. She was the same light green and brown all humanity was now, her family name, Sar, giving no clue whether her distant ancestors had spent ten thousand years in Norway or Nigeria. Amarta was sixteen, the Mayor’s daughter. She was due to be married to someone eight feet tall and furred from head to foot, whose distant ancestors hadn’t been on Earth at all. The old man had wondered, in the last year, if the relationships in the town were being put under too much pressure by the situation they were in. But, at least for the last few centuries, he’d become the sort of person who always questioned his own certainties, and so he wasn’t apt to ask Amarta if she’d chosen someone as comforting as Das because now they were all seeking comfort.
‘Are they still there?’ she asked.
‘You worked out why I came up here. Good. No. They’re not.’
She paused for a moment, weighing up her fear. ‘How long have we got?’
‘I don’t know exactly.’
‘But now you can find out.’
He’d wondered if he’d been going to do so before she’d mentioned it, if he really wanted to deform their lives even further by knowing. But now she’d asked, it was obvious. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Now I can.’

They walked through the snow-covered streets of the town. The temperature had been dropping every year, as energy leaked to... well, who knew where it was going? Into the flaw. The flaw that had holed this universe below the waterline and sealed it off, leading to the rending and dissolution of great continents of spacetime. They had watched one night, almost all of them, as a nearby star cluster, high in the sky, a welcome winter decoration of this world for centuries, had, as the old man had predicted it would, suddenly shifted into the red and vanished. Silently. The space it had been in had fallen away from the dimensional architecture that had supported it. They had heard, via hyperspace link, the cries of horror and despair from other colonies, from other inhabited worlds beyond.
That had been when they were still in communication with other inhabited worlds.
When there had still been other inhabited worlds.
When there had still been hyperspace through which to talk to them.
It felt apt that this should happen in winter. Not that winter meant anything to the wider cosmos. The old man had been seized by many worries and doubts in the last year, and currently he was dogged by the idea that he brought with him, wherever he went, not a grand perspective, as he’d always imagined in his youth, but a lack of one. He believed in winter and summer, north and south, happy and sad. He always tried to say he didn’t believe in good and evil, but he knew evil when he saw it, and knew it always grew out of good. He brought these tiny beliefs, tiny against the universe, with him wherever he went. And now he’d ended up with them here, when perhaps what these people could really do with...
He looked at Amarta walking determinedly beside him, and hated himself for thinking it. When what they could do with was either some comforting description of absolute mechanical acceptance, or some comforting lie of absolute denial. Some of his old enemies had marched to their doom in this universe logically, methodically, without fear or anger. Some had gone screeching defiance and shooting into the dark in all directions.
But all he had instead were his little lies. ‘How apt this should happen in winter!’ As if there was apt. As if there was winter. As if there were anything but this.
He should have been better. He should have tried harder, somehow.
As if he was the hero of this story. As if it was obviously up to him to save the universe, and that he’d somehow, incredibly, just for once, missed his chance this time, but another must surely come along.
That was how he’d acted, all his life. As if it had been up to him. Him now not being able to felt like a lesson. That was being taught to him, of course. That he wouldn’t learn until the last moment. When he’d taken everyone else with him.
He felt like yelling, just yelling, as he walked.
His frustration with himself often boiled over into anger. He knew it. He was telling more and more jokes. Smiling at children. Trying to be liked. As if they might start to think this was his fault. Well, being people, they might yet. ‘You know,’ he said now, ‘I once asked Schrödinger about the end of the universe. I’d located him at a dinner party. I wanted to tell him that he could have his cat back if he promised not to be so cruel to it –‘
‘Who?’
He stopped, sighed. ‘Never mind. Before your time. Like everything else.’
They came to the hall in the centre of town. The building had originally had a defensive purpose, like the outer wall, but gradually, as everyone from the scattered settlements on the planet and the few remaining ships that had made it to this system had come to live here, the wall had been left unguarded, and the hall had become the centre of a great meaningless system of barter, the town growing into tents and shacks far beyond its old limits.
It needn’t have been that way. There’d nearly been a small war about letting parasitical insect creatures and carnivorous reptiles settle here. Until the old man had bellowed at that meeting that if a single one of them on any side took up arms he would take a spanner and smash his own ship and they could all die together in the cold, right now.
They entered the hall. There it stood, on the little stage at one end, which was decorated with branches and berries, where the children rehearsed for the carol concert in the evenings. It looked at home there. The pantomime prop. The peeling paint. Thin cables led through the open door, feeding power and structure to the town and the world beyond, moment by moment.
It wouldn’t save them. He’d told them it wouldn’t. All it did was buy them time.
If he could, he’d have put them all in it, and taken eight hundred chattering and yelling fools away from here.
But there was nowhere to go.
Amarta followed him inside. He left the door open these days. He’d locked off any dangers, and he liked to come in here and find small children running about, pulling levers which wouldn’t do anything, hiding in all the nooks and crannies. He played the scowling old wizard to them sometimes. But they’d found him out, as children did.
He went to the relevant instruments, and felt the old thrill as they came to life for him. He asked the question of his poor old ship, aware that for it, what was happening must be like gradually being buried alive. He spoke gently. The ship told him the answer.
He thought about concealing it from Amarta. But he knew she would find him out too. Her face reminded him of... everybody. All she was a descendant of. ‘Two weeks and a day,’ he said. ‘Until the night of Christmas.’
Apt, again. Cruel. Like a story.
She nodded, bravely taking it in. Then he realised she was crying anyway.

They brought forward the wedding, to the very next day, in fact. The old man organised the reception, gave the couple all the treats he could: unleavened bread and some of the last of the wine. He sat beside Reverend Auster Trelaw, the old man and the old woman together, and both kept peaceful smiles on their faces as almost everyone danced, wildly and too drunkenly already. The Mayor had talked to a number of Das’ relatives, and they were going to do their best to make sure nobody got hurt.
The old man had told the Mayor the date of the final day, and he had announced it immediately. It had come as a relief to many. They’d known for months there would be such a date. There were no riots. The town was too small for the anonymity that would have allowed that.
There was just a great deep breath in, an increase of tension, the start of the shout on the roller coaster, at the edge of the drop.

The old man and the old woman walked home together, to the townhouse that the old man shared with three families. Trelaw slept in a tent in the church now, having given up her house. She belonged to the Fourth Adjusted Church of Chiro. She had once tried to explain its lineage to the old man, but he’d kept saying he’d known various people involved and it hadn’t been like that, until finally she’d asked why he assumed she cared.
As the last summer had become the last autumn, they’d spent a lot of what little free time they had together. They had sat under trees and read to each other. They had kept themselves limber with long walks to check the furthest instruments, deep in the woods. They had taken to sharing a bed when it was silly to walk all that way back. And every now and then they had shared something more.
‘You’re a source of great pain to me, you know,’ said the old man now, as they walked.
‘You too,’ she said fondly back to him.
‘Because of you, I’m in the world, to the last.’
‘Oh. You mean that otherwise you’d just get in that machine of yours and close the door until there was nothing left outside?’
He was silent.
‘Rubbish,’ she said. ‘Don’t blame me. There’s a whole list, from Amarta downwards, and if not them, you’d find a random stranger to care about, and I’m surprised at you, because you don’t normally lie to yourself, not for a second.’
‘No,’ he said, ‘it’s all I’ve done -’ And then he couldn’t talk for a moment.
‘What keeps you going,’ she said, ‘is not a lie.’
‘You would say that, wouldn’t you?’ The old argument had let him find his voice.
‘Don’t start.’
‘I’m... very frightened. I don’t want to leave you.’
‘I don’t either.’
‘Why aren’t you afraid?’
‘I am. But I don’t want to let the side down. You see bursts of it, public mischief, but there always seems to be someone who says stop, let’s not go out like this. It’s like there’s someone watching, eh?’
‘Now don’t you start.’
‘I reserve the right to keep starting things,’ she said. And she held him by the lapels, and started something again there and then.

He didn’t sleep very much now. He slept in the afternoons, when his body forced him to. The nights troubled him.
But thanks to his dearest, he slept that night.
He woke in the early hours, and that wasn’t so surprising, but this time there was a strange noise in the room.
No, a familiar noise. One he hadn’t heard for a long time.
A wheezing, groaning sound.
And suddenly, there stood someone at the end of the bed, surrounded in blue light. His clothes were ashes, and his features were burnt. But his eyes were still bright, and he looked down at the old man, teeth bared, furious with him. Furious but helpless. As always.
The glow cut out, and the figure fell.

The old man crouched beside him as Trelaw ran for medical help.
The figure’s hands convulsed in the air, like he was making a pitiful grab for the old man’s throat. ‘I used... all the energy...’ he hissed, ‘of a galaxy, before it fell. It pushed me across... the last stepping stones of space and time...’
The old man tried to hush him.
‘You can’t be the last. I’m the last. I will show them -‘
And he died. Not gently. The last cry caught in his throat.

They held the funeral the next day. On the hard frosted ground. That took digging. Nobody said, with the cold, with so little time left, why bother.
‘I wanted to say about him,’ said the old man, over the grave, ‘that he believed in himself. But not even that. I’m... glad that his hatred of me gave him something to live for.’ And he dropped a handful of soil that was like stones onto the body.

He’d investigated, obviously, had examined where he’d appeared, talked to his ship about the spectrum of that glow.
But there was nothing to indicate that it wasn’t a one way trip.
He’d considered, once, taking everyone here back in time: leaving them on some empty world, so at least they’d be spared. But then he’d thought: they would have descendents, different people would arrive here, someone would always end up here at this moment. And if he himself fled to live in the past, they’d be without him.
He’d started to work on it anyway, only to find that the bridges that connected present to past had fallen away, that there wasn’t a way back now.
He couldn’t go back now, and break all the laws to stop this happening, even if he did manage to find out what it was.
Trelaw thought it might be another universe colliding with this one, at a higher dimensional level. The old man had tried to contact any of the great powers that lived amongst such things, but to no avail.

In those last cold dark two weeks, Amarta excitedly announced she was pregnant, which everyone, including the father, knew to be impossible.
‘I just know,’ she said. ‘With Christmas approaching, this is what it all means, this is what we’ve been waiting for. This is going to save us! Somehow.’
Trelaw had closed her eyes and tried to find something to say and had finally left the room, shaking her head. Which had left Amarta looking lost and furious.
‘I’m sorry,’ said the old man, taking her hands, ‘but it can’t be.’ The distance between species still meant something. Biology had, cruelly, not been suspended alongside physics. The old man listened to Amarta deny it and deny it, insisting that something impossible would save them.
Insisting, still, on a story.

Trelaw didn’t mention the apparent miracle from the pulpit. Everyone in her church was talking about it, mostly unbelieving. There were more believers in this amongst those that didn’t come. The old man said to her that she seemed sad to see the numbers in her church grow. She replied that love wasn’t love when you had a gun to your head.

They all became aware, as the last week approached, that something odd was happening to their perceptions of time and space. The old man found himself in long rooms, whispering to people in the distance. He woke at the bottom of a pit. He walked with the long dead, of his acquaintance, and there were so many of them, and they were merry company, and wanted to draw him away. Until he made himself turn his back on them, and refused to retreat into such comfort.
Some of the townsfolk did accept this senile mercy. Many didn’t. The dreamers took to their beds. The others took to staying awake. Blessed sleep had gone over to the enemy.

On the night before Christmas, the sun crept low into the sky, rolled along the hills, then vanished behind them once more.
As it had been in the beginning, in the heart of winter, so it would be in the end.
‘Well,’ said the old man, ‘here we are.’
He was standing in the little hall, Trelaw and the Mayor beside him. They were here to stage warm traditions in the last cold place. The children, in the wings, were ready to walk on, already hushing each other and stretching and sneezing and bumping into things and complaining and asking questions. Like they would have lives after. Those old enough to remember last year were wondering why Christmas had got mixed up with something sad. All of them were angry at this thing they didn’t understand. Very few of them had had anything explained to them. Nobody could seem to find words that told hope for the future that there was no hope.
The audience was just about everybody. Even the sleepers. They had come to hear their children sing.
The Mayor nodded to the old man. He’d prepared something to say, the old man knew, about this not being the moment for strident announcements or loud debates. But it hadn’t needed to be said.
The old man went to sit at the piano, and watched as the children marched onstage, some of them swinging their arms extravagantly, little soldiers. All sorts of species. Different ages that approximated the same stage of growth. Different sizes. Doing something, on this last night, alien traditions, just because.
He played what might be called carols from many different worlds and beliefs, his old fingers aching at the resistant keys of a piano that could no longer be tuned, that hadn’t been in great shape even before the universe had warped its strings.
He finished with ‘Oh Little Town of Bethlehem’.

At the end of the concert, the Mayor thanked the audience for everything. He asked them for calm. He said there was to be no further organised gathering. That he expected everyone to make their own arrangements, with dignity.
Trelaw whispered to the old man that she desperately wanted to say something about suicide, to plead with anyone who was thinking about it not to –
But the hall began to empty as she made herself get to her feet, and in the end she just shook her head and sat down again.
Amarta made her way back to the two of them after the hall had emptied.
She looked horrified. Suddenly mourning.
Their first sight of the horror that was now going to raise itself more and more and more out of the plummet that stood before them. She gave them a glimpse of the size of it. That was coming now.
‘There’s no baby,’ she whispered. ‘I... knew. I... lied. I’m sorry.’
And she ran from the hall.
They couldn’t find her to comfort her.

‘The hopes and fears,’ Trelaw said, as they walked to the old man’s house, ‘of all the years, are met in thee tonight.’
‘Yes.’
‘What are you going to do? At the end?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Die, I suppose.’ It sounded odd in her voice.
‘Oh, that’s the last thing I’ll do.’
She swore at him.
‘Have you heard,’ he said, ‘of the theory, and this is so large and so odd that it’s never been disproved, but has just sat there, since it was first thought of, in the Twentieth Century, making people look away from it...’ He looked up into the darkness.
‘What theory?’
‘The idea that the universe is very like a black hole. Holographic in nature. That everything that has ever happened, all our experiences, our whole minds, every single piece of data, is recorded in solid form, remembered, trapped in amber at the event horizon. That time, as we experience it, is just the needle playing our consciousness, one of many songs on an old record.’
‘There’s an elderly metaphor.’
‘What do you make of it?’
‘It sounds like an afterlife to me. It sounds like what Plato saw, illuminating the wall of his cave, making the shadows that are our reality. It’s what people have often suspected, and described in different ways. But that’s just people. Just another story. It’s probably not true. But if only it was.’
‘You think?’
She looked surprised at the sound in his voice. ‘It scares you.’
‘Our whole existences, sitting there, contemplating each other, or being contemplated by who knows what? Without change, or travel, or a new idea? It terrifies me.’
‘More than death?’
‘Much more.’
‘You,’ she said, taking his arm, ‘fell from heaven. It’s understandable you don’t want to go back.’

They lay with each other again. They were pleased that the noises they heard from outside were songs and even laughter, and the sounds of pleasure.
‘It feels like the last important thing,’ she said in the darkness, just a voice now. ‘That there aren’t screams and gunfire and rape. Some of that is down to you. Your influence.’
‘And you.’
‘I feel like going house to house, making sure nobody kills their children.’
‘I already did.’
‘Of course you did.’
In the end, they couldn’t help but go to sleep. It was what mammals did.

The old man woke in darkness, and knew the darkness now was there for him.
Outside was silence. It was strangely warm. It was near to midnight.
He looked beside him.
His dearest was gone.
He held his expression still. He didn’t let himself cry out. Although he felt sure now that there was nobody left to hear him.
There was just the dark, all around. A line of light from the door. A line that was all that was left.
Something fell away beside him.
He leapt up with a shout. He looked back for a moment, into the darkness where his dearest had been.
The darkness drew nearer to him again, suddenly, comfortably, like the calm outside the lamp on any winter’s night near any human fire.
He considered staying and letting it take him.
But he could not be that man. Not at the end.
Not ever.
He found he was smiling. A good smile. At last.
He turned and ran for the door.

The line of light was like a bridge, over nothing and from nothing. It led to the hall in the middle of what was no longer the town. The old man could see his machine there, sustaining the light, its last hope.
And then, the bridge led elsewhere, changed by a sudden idea of the old man, and the machine fell away, its sides collapsing in on itself, and then it was just lines that flexed away into the dark and vanished.
It had given itself for his last wish.
He gathered his strength and ran.

The light led to the hillside. Because the hillside was all there was left.
‘If energy can drop into the flaw,’ the old man yelled, because he might as well talk to himself now, ‘then perhaps it can be pulled from it again!’
He did the equations in his head as he ran. He said them out loud, as if they might be incantations that could change the shape of things on their own.
But he knew they failed. That they led to chains of zeroes. Wait, zeroes!
‘A zero point device,’ he gasped, ‘as the last researchers were working on, to take energy from the quantum foam!’ He scrabbled in his pockets, only to find that he was wearing his dressing gown. And so he found only a piece of string and an apple and a marble.
He spent a moment juggling them desperately, running through the ways these three things might make a device for which the theory had never been thought of.
He could not find a way.
He threw the marble at the dark and bit into the apple and threw that too and kept running.
‘If you mapped the dimensions of the universe onto an imaginary one, that I imagined-!’
He estimated the strength of psionic force required and realised it was too much.
‘The cord of my dressing gown, if I could somehow make a wormhole, fling it in, across to another universe -!’
But how could his mere flesh do that?
He had nothing.
But he ran on. Shouting his ideas at the dark.

He ran onto the hillside, and turned quickly, and realised he was on the last land, that the dark was spiralling up beneath him, that he was on the last high point over nothing, and that now he could see nothing rushing in from all sides. That his machine, or the love of the universe for its most troubling son, had made him a privileged observer of the last moments.
The last moment.
Now.
He held up his hands and willed them to make something. He grabbed at the thin air.
He roared at the darkness.
The darkness rushed at him.
‘Wait,’ he cried, ‘I’ve got an idea!’

The event horizon of the universe was.
It shone and did not. It had no colour. There were no other colours to compare it to. It always was. It was never not. It did not have always and never. It held time and space and all memory. It loved all memory. Memory didn’t know it.
And that was that.
Or... it had been that.
Suddenly, there was a had been.
And then, there was a then.
And then a moment after.
Something had happened.
Something detached itself.
It looked at the event horizon, and was itself. And it liked that. What?! It loved that. Oh, and it loved an event horizon! But it couldn’t be part of that. Not quite. Though it sort of wanted to be.
But -
And with a sudden bloom –
A new everything.
And something whirling off into it.
It had started something.
Again.
In winter.

The End


For every entry in the 12 Blogs, cartoonist Laurie Pink has promised us a new Paul and Mike cartoon. Applause, please! These characters were originally based on myself and comic artist Mike Collins, but they've evolved away from us since. Laurie's website can be found here.



Join us again tomorrow for our Best of the Year blog, and, in the meantime, if anyone has found a seasonal use for a Tom Baker action figure head, I'd be delighted to publish the photos. Cheerio!

47 Response to "The 12 Blogs of Christmas: One. A Doctor Who Story for Christmas."

  • Marjorie Says:

    Thank you - You Sir, give most excellent advent Who.
    (and LauriePink cartoons are always fun, as well.)


  • Matthew Kilburn Says:

    A quiet and human achievement. Rooted thoroughly in lots of different soils of Who, and more besides. The last paragraph about the Event Horizon reminded me of something which I read last year about the Trinity. All very appropriate.


  • heatherfeather Says:

    Great to see the 12 blogs of Christmas again(has it really been a whole year since the last one?)

    Wow...that's all I can say about your DW right now..will have to go back and reread again.

    Looking forward to tomorrow.


  • Keith W. Cunningham Says:

    Fantastic! You capture the Doctor's tenacity like few others.

    It reminded me of a Churchill quote that I love:

    "Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."
    - Sir Winston Churchill


  • spastasmagoria Says:

    Aww, dude. I'd have something thoughtful to say, but I can't quite gather myself together after that story. Just... AWW, DUDE. Seriously, that was beautiful stuff.


  • Aimee Says:

    "And it liked that. What?! It loved that. Oh, and it loved an event horizon! But it couldn’t be part of that. Not quite. Though it sort of wanted to be."

    That feels -so- much like the Doctor! I also agree with the Churchill quote reference.


  • barrettmanor Says:

    A lovely, lyrical story. One of my favorite bits:

    ‘You know,’ he said now, ‘I once asked Schrödinger about the end of the universe. I’d located him at a dinner party. I wanted to tell him that he could have his cat back if he promised not to be so cruel to it –‘

    That's The Doctor all over.


  • mymatedave Says:

    Oh I like this. I very much like this a lot. A very doctor kind of ending.


  • ani murr Says:

    i really want to read this but the words spill so far acorss the page that they bleed into and beyond the material in the right hand margin

    i love the prologue and epilogue to Dr Who Short Trips: a Christmas Treasury - they are beautiful, thank you


  • Ian Cullen Says:

    Thank you - Paul,

    A really cool story with lots to think about. Really enjoyed it.

    Cartoons were fun as well.

    Anyhow. I have to do some advance podcast preparation. I go live in a little under 30 minutes.

    But, though I should say how I enjoyed the story. I'll probably give it a mention on the podcast so hopefully more people find it.

    Thanks you.

    Ian


  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little Says:

    Thank you. That was lovely.


  • Colleen/redeem147 Says:

    Wonderful and sad and beautiful and, as usual, my eyes are a little misty.


  • shawnlunn2002 Says:

    That was a lovely story. Looking forward to the next blogs for Christmas.


  • Teresa Says:

    Damn you for making me cry, Cornell. Damn you straight to the Event Horizon.


  • adroidmortox247 Says:

    That was a lovely, touching story. Moving and funny, and very clever.


  • rob-t-firefly Says:

    That was entirely lovely.


  • Angela Korra'ti Says:

    Hi, Anna the Piper (Angela Korra'ti) from LJ coming over to follow your blog posts here. Lovely little story! :)


  • psifi872 Says:

    You know, I had the weirdest idea, while reading this, that the old man wasn't the Doctor, but the Master! I guess I was expecting a twist since the old man is never really positively identified as the Doctor. I also thought the old man's thought about not believing in good and evil was a clue. LOL It's an interesting, beautiful read, either way!


  • tardis-stowaway Says:

    That was marvelous! It was deeply moving. Even without travel in time and space, it remains very much a Doctor Who story. However, it also has a lot to say about people, and about why so many cultures have elected to put a holiday smack in the middle of the darkest part of the year.


  • stephanieburgis Says:

    I really loved this. Thank you for posting it!


  • mgfarrelly Says:

    That was really lovely Paul. Thank you and Happy Christmas to you and yours.


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Thanks so much, everyone. Matthew: I'm glad you noticed the roots. Keith: loved that Churchill quote, must use that. Ani: sorry! What are you reading it on? Can anyone techy help? Angela: thanks for coming over!


  • Jordn Says:

    That was fantastic. Thank you. :D

    And I got the (strange, I suppose) feeling that it was the Seventh Doctor. Apart from the Schrödinger line, which was a bit Ten, it just felt like Seven to me.


  • Anonymous Says:

    Lovely. One of the things I most love about this time of year is how easy it is to work "numinous" into conversation, parts of that really bought on that feeling!


  • Mefinx Says:

    What a beautiful story - reminds us all that the Doctor is so much bigger than even his most epic adventure. I have occasionally worried about New Who, much as I love it, because I think if the show loses that kind of hope it loses its soul.

    Also, I was interested to see your wife is starting ordination training - I've quite a few ordained friends. The connections between religion, atheism and British fantasy/SF would make a wonderful book - and probably already have.


  • JHFalle Says:

    Reminds me of Alan Moore when he said that "one of the things that prevents superhero stories from ever attaining the status of true modern myths or legends is that they are open ended."

    This lets the Doctor live out that principle. 'Death gives us pause', after all and yet, and yet... in the Last Doctor's Event Horizon, that narrative line of life comes as close to death without ever closing on it. He's pulled the Gordian trick by meaning that he never dies. Cos he wouldn't. Not our Doctor. We know he can't.

    I'm a Secular Sally but I love, an Event Horizon, me. And I love the thing whirling into it. And I love this. Thanks, Paul!


  • IMForeman Says:

    "Everybody knows that everybody dies and nobody knows it like the Doctor. But I do think that all the skies of all the worlds might just turn dark if he ever for one moment, accepted it."

    And it turns out, not even then.


  • Anonymous Says:

    Wow, beautiful. And it captured the doctor's character perfectly. And officially canon now in my head forever!


  • Ivriniel Says:

    Thanks Paul. :)

    Would I be right to guess that O Little Town of Bethlehem is your favourite carol? Between this story, The Hopes and Fears of all the Years and Deep and Dreamless Sleep, it seems to come up a lot. :)


  • Anthony Burch Says:

    I hate to be the Stupid Guy Who Doesn't Understand the Subtle Ending, but...well, I'm that guy. Did the Doctor simply will the universe back into existence?


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Thank you, all. Anon: numinous is one of my favourite words, as I'm sure people can tell. Mef: someone should write that book. JHF: indeed, I like to be a cheat and reach for closure! Iv: ah, you noticed my theme! It is indeed my favourite. I nearly got it sung at our wedding. Nearly. Anthony: you're not being stupid at all. But I really don't like explaining stories. It is what it is, and if you didn't get it, the fault is mine, not yours.


  • Susannah Says:

    Wow. And thank you. And Merry Christmas with all the warmth an Australian summer can give to the season :)

    Just a minor correction - at one point there's reference to a dressing gown "chord". I think it should be 'cord'?


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Ah, caught and edited, thank you!


  • Matt Says:

    This story reminds me of Asimov's "The Last Question."


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Ha ha ha! I see what you mean. I think the comments here have been excellent: well done, you lot.


  • Anonymous Says:

    I was going for this: PRELUDE
    LONDON 1895 + 5 DAYS LOCAL TIME SINCE LAST VISIT
    The TARDIS materialized in the narrow alley off Baker Street. "Here we are." The Doctor's new assistant stared at him with surprise.
    "I thought we were going to some alien world to watch the setting of five suns...or something."
    The Doctor shook his head. "Jelly Babies!" The red haired girl stared at him. "Jelly Babies?"
    Doctor nodded with an insane smile. "Jelly Babies...I found the most amazing shop during a visit to Baker Street in eighteen ninety five."
    "We are...Jelly Babies!" She was almost ashamed to be on what was apparently now a trip to the shops. The Doctor looked back at her from the exit.
    “The Shops...?” Karen wondered to herself if he frequents Pompeii just for the pickled eggs.
    "Not just any Shop...A wonderful little confectioner who makes Jelly babies from Turkish delight and in assorted flavours and colours." The Doctor stepped from the Door of the TARDIS into the city of London.
    “What year is it?” Karen was just realizing that her silver radiation suit would be a little inappropriate.
    “Eighteen ninety five plus five days local time since my last visit.” The Doctor took a moment to breathe in the Sunlight.
    “So...you’re a regular customer?”
    The two pronged fork penetrated both hearts as it pushed though his chest killing him instantly. Karen screamed his name.
    The young assailant walked over to the body and put a boot on the Doctor's Chest, pulling the impaling Fork free. The Doctor was dead. Karen collapsed over his body and fell back again with blood on her hands.
    "That's my name. Don’t wear it out...although I'm thinking of changing it to The Master." The young murderer smiled to himself.
    "Yes...I think the Master will do nicely." The young Master grabbed Karen by the face and pushed her back into the TARDIS dragging her from the entrance. Her scream was cut off as the door pulled shut and the engine roared to life.
    A crowd of people gathered where an alley met Baker Street, about the body of a young man who had apparently been stabbed in the chest by an unknown assailant. Somewhere nearby, a police whistle blew.
    LONDON 2010 + 85 DAYS LOCAL TIME SINCE LAST VISIT
    Rose halted and stared at it. The TARDIS sat open in the dark alleyway - Inviting. She smiled at the proposal.
    He's offering me...what? Rose Tyler walked toward the Blue Police Box. "All right you...Doctor?"
    Rose vanished through the Door of the TARDIS with a scream of horror. Blood sprayed against the Door of the Police Box and it snapped closed.
    The Light flickered with the wretched cyclic noise of a Gallifreyan Time and Space Displacement Engine greased and oiled with human tallow.
    Beyond the now Gothic horror that was the console, the naked, preserved Skins of Sarah Jane Smith, Jo Grant, and many other assistants were displayed for the viewing pleasure of a God of Time gone mad with eternity.
    The Sonic Screwdriver pulverized the Bone of the skull allowing the brain of Rose Tyler to be lifted easily from the cavity, eyes dangling as it was lowered into a jar and connected with probes linking it to the temporal targeting array.
    A voice: "I love you Rose..."


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Well. Hmm. Yeah. Some context might be a thought. ?


  • PG Says:

    Paul- that's a fantastic story. This is my second set of your "12 blogs of Christmas", I think I am enjoying this year's even more than the last. Cheers!


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Thanks very much!


  • Hour 42 Says:

    Paul, I have often thought upon and discussed the fact that here is a being that KNOWS we all die in the end that EVERYTHING will cease at a point in time.

    And yet, he still makes the effort to make friends and loved ones and have experiences - even though (as stated previously) HE KNOWS its all already done.

    He still makes choices and decisions for the benefit of others with that knowledge in his head. It is this fact that makes him a Hero among Heroes. Knowing, TRULY, that it just doesn't really matter even a small bit in the end in reference to how it all works out.

    But rather, it is the actions of the moments in which you live and the interactions with the world around you that matter for precisely that very reason.

    That last moment of the universe comes to all of us in our lives. Should we decide to live as the Doctor has we will have had a life of value and worth.

    Thank you for this story. It answers some of my questions in an acceptable way about a character which has inspired me for nearly all of my 40 years.

    Peter Pixie
    Co-Host Hour42


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Thanks for that, Mr. Pixie.


  • Andrew Says:

    I truly enjoy Doctor Who. It was great to read a story that brought out the character of the Doctor so well.

    It is truly amazing to me that this character of the Doctor has inspired so many great ideas and stories and continues to do that. All from a little show.


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Thanks very much, and indeed!


  • zen-tartine Says:

    Oh my...Doctor! that was wonderful.

    I didn't know about the holo-universe event horizon record player of existence thingy theory. THANKYOU for bringing it to my attention. It makes me happy. As does your story. Happy Solstice and...

    Vinyl forever!!!


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Thanks very much.


  • Ralph Burns Says:

    Just got round to reading this. Really rather lovely stuff, with a very clever and moving ending. Excellent!


  • Paul Cornell Says:

    Thank you!